US California Changes to Unemployment Could Pay Out Benefits Faster to 100,000 People
So far, little fraud evident in rental assistance programs
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — After watching scammers make off with more than $20 billion in fraudulent California unemployment benefits during the pandemic, state housing officials were wary of a repeat when the federal government poured money into the state and told them to use it to pay off people's unpaid rent. But in the eight months since California's rental assistance program began, fraud has been virtually nonexistent. The Department of Housing and Community Development has identified 1,800 fraudulent rental assistance applications out of nearly 500,000 statewide — 0.0036% — and none was paid.
The Employment Development Department (EDD) in California announced Thursday that it will keep paying people unemployment while their eligibility is under investigation, which could pay out benefits faster to 100,000 people, the Associated Press reported.
The change was the result of a lawsuit settlement between the state and an advocacy group, the Center for Workers' Rights.
Michigan Overpaid Nearly $4B in Unemployment Benefits, Unlikely to Recoup Funds
A Michigan state audit found that the Unemployment Insurance Agency Office had overpaid $3.9 billion for the 5.4 million residents who sought COVID relief.The unemployment benefits were mishandled at a time when 5.4 million people were applying due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This led to the agency sending out letters over the summer to 648,100 Michigan residents who were found eligible for benefits the previous year, telling them they needed to reapply for eligibility.
The change applies only to people who have been certified for benefits and have already received at least one week of payment. Daniela Urban, the executive director to the Center for Workers' Rights, said it could affect up to 100,000 people.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
California Gov.'s administration on Thursday announced a major change in how the state pays unemployment benefits, potentially unlocking payments for up to 100,000 people who have gone weeks or months without assistance.
Getting unemployment benefits is a two-step process. First, state officials must decide if people are eligible. If they are, the state starts paying them. But those people must contact the state every two weeks to confirm they are still eligible to keep getting paid.
Nebraska unemployment rate lowest for any state ever recorded
Nebraska recorded the lowest unemployment rate seen by any U.S. state in recorded history last month, according to state data.Nebraska recorded an unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent in October, according to information released last week by the Nebraska Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Spokespeople for both Nebraska's labor department and the BLS confirmed to The Associated Press that Nebraska's October unemploymentNebraska recorded an unemployment rate of only 1.9 percent in October, according to information released last week by the Nebraska Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Sometimes, state officials must investigate residents' eligibility after they have been paid. When this happens, the state stops paying them until the investigation is complete. Before the pandemic, these investigations usually did not take too long. But during the pandemic, the state has been overwhelmed with millions of claims that have caused lengthy delays.
"This is a monumental change by EDD that will allow more claimants to be paid on time," Urban said.
Unemployment claims skyrocketed across the country during the pandemic, causing backlogs in many states. Claims have slowed since then, but California still has more than 3 million people receiving some form of unemployment benefits. The state has had a persistent backlog throughout the pandemic.
The change is not without risk for Newsom, who is facing a recall election in September. The governor has been heavily criticized for failing to stop billions of dollars in fraudulent benefit payments to prison inmates and others who were not eligible to receive them. But he's also faced complaints for a growing backlog of people with legitimate claims who have been unable to get paid because of a complex bureaucracy overwhelmed by the pandemic.
Infrastructure package: Here's what's in it
President Joe Biden signed a $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill into law Monday. It will deliver $550 billion of new federal investments in America's infrastructure over five years, touching everything from bridges and roads to the nation's broadband, water and energy systems. Experts say the money is sorely needed to ensure safe travel, as well as the efficient transport of goods and produce across the country. The nation's infrastructure system earned a C- score from the American Society of Civil Engineers earlier this year.
"There's a continuing trade-off between rapid payment of unemployment insurance claims and anti-fraud protocols," said Michael Bernick, a former Employment Development Department director who is now an attorney for the Duane Morris law firm. "This action today in paying continuing claims that have had previous verifications seems to have low fraud risks, while reducing the backlogs."
Video: What you need to know about new California unemployment benefit requirements (KCRA Sacramento)
It's possible this action will cause the state to pay people who are not eligible. In a news release, the EDD said people who get benefits when they are not eligible could have to pay those back at some point. But it is possible to waive repayment if people claim financial hardship and the overpayment was not the result of fraud.
State Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno, said the state's action is a "stunning admission that they can't do their fundamental task" of paying legitimate claims while rooting out fraud.
Miami Heat vs. Detroit Pistons: Play-by-play, highlights and reactions
The Miami Heat (11-6) play against the Detroit Pistons (12-12) at Little Caesars Arena Game Time: 7:00 PM EST on Tuesday November 23, 2021 Miami Heat 0, Detroit Pis
"Now to clear their giant backlog, they're going to take the dangerous risk of paying fraudsters, too," Patterson said.
Since March 2020, more than 23 million people have filed unemployment claims in California, and the state has paid $160 billion in benefits. Meanwhile, more than 226,000 people are still waiting for the state to resolve their claims and pay them.
They include 57-year-old Abdulkarim Adam, who lost his job as a bus driver for a private company during the pandemic. The state stopped paying him unemployment benefits in March and never told him why, he said.
Adam had to borrow money from friends and move in with his sons while he waited. He said he called the state every day but could not get through. He was surprised to later receive a text message from the agency, asking for feedback on their customer service.
Adam said he replied with a flattering message, hoping that would spur the agency to pay him faster. When that didn't work, he later sent an angry message comparing the agency to the authoritarian dictatorship in North Korea.
He was relieved on Thursday to finally hear about the state's policy change and hoped it would get him his money faster.
"It will ease a lot of financial difficulties, and it will improve our lives," he said.
The Employment Development Department received more than 5.8 million calls from 421,005 unique callers in the final two weeks of June, according to a report posted on the department's website. The department said it answered 478,749 calls during that period.
NHL Free Agency 2021: Every signing by all 32 teams
The NHL free agent market opened Wednesday, July 28.• Canadiens sign Nick Suzuki to an eight-year, $63 million deal.
Urban said many of those calls were from people like Adam wondering why their benefits were halted. She said fewer of those people will likely call now that they know their benefits won't be interrupted.
"I think it will allow claimants to be more confident in relying on the support of these unemployment benefits, while they still have them, as they look for post-pandemic work," she said.
Unemployment Insurance: What changes for the unemployed on 1 December .
© Fred Dugit From December 1st, it will have to have worked six months and no more to benefit from unemployment benefit. LP / Frédéric Dugit The last floor of the emblematic reform of the five-year rule of unemployment takes place after moult jolts. Union unions - for once - have not managed to drop it.